My friend and mentor Prof. Ernst Specker from ETH Zurich considered “Jesuit lies” to be things that you do know but don’t say because they are jeopardizing your goals.
Or you might not mention the context in which a statement is embedded, and thereby completely flip the message content on the receiving end.
A Jesuit lie is a deliberate omission for advantage over truth for a cause which appears to be good and just.
This is about a short but revealing conversation with a journalist from the Austrian public broadcaster ORF who in an online posting claimed: “Then came the phase of the alleged scientific “discussion”. Scientists hired by business lobbies argued against the consensus” (translation thanks to deepl). The statement reveals a lot about the type of politically correct scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
I asked him about the basis of such an amazing claim, which seems to be twofold:
(1) there has never been a serious scientific discussion – and there indeed never will be one – because there is no need for it: every sane person – and, in particular, every proper scientist – accepts that AGW is the main driving factor for global warming, which exists, as scientific fact. Note the subtheses: global warming exists; and AGW is the main cause of it.
(2) Those remaining “scientists” who dissent with AGW are corrupt as they are bought by business lobbies.
Now who in their right mind would dare to disagree, right? This rings all the right bells and wizzles, and expresses Chomsky’s manufactured consent on the upcoming climatic Armageddon so eloquently.
The journalist’s answer was not directly related to point (2) – corrupt scientists denying AGW – yet he extended (1) in claiming that 99.3% of all scientists in climate science warn about the (dramatic) consequences of climate change.
Now that was a number to dwell on: 99.3%! Wow!
Btw, this remindes me of the fake Nazi propaganda of the alleged 99.7561% of Austrians (in Germany the fabricated number was slightly less, namely “only” 99%) in support for the “Anschluss” which absorbed Austria into the “Reich” in 1939.
I asked the journalist about his source, and voila, this is what he came up with: “Skeptical Science Study Finds 97% Consensus on Human-Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature”. Never mind the small discrepance between 97% and 99.3%. These are peanuts relative to the sheer magnitude of support for the AGW thesis.
This quoted web review contains a link to the primary scientific study on “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature” which deserves some attention because it is quoted over and over again. Actually I knew it before: because of its popularity in print it is almost impossible to avoid it.
And yet nobody seems to listen to it. Most quotations endulge into (re)claiming what they are ego invested in.
Suppose we are taking this classical meta-analysis – an analysis about the literature on climate change – at face value. That is, we don’t acknowledge that those who publish in climate change have any vested interest whatsoever in keeping the field popular and “hot” – they have no skin in the game whatever.
Then let us quote from the abstract: “We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.”
So does this mean that “97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming“?
Yes and no, depending on the context selected:
(1) Yes because “Among abstracts expressing a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.” In short: if you commit yourself to or against AGW then you are almost certainly commited to AGW.
(2) No because those who expressed a position on AGW were merely 32.6% + 0.7% + 0.3% = 33.6% of the population of all scientists (the majority did not express any opinion on AGW). And, according to Statistics 101, this results in merely
(32.6% + 0.7% + 0.3%)*97.1% = (33.6%)*97.1% = 32.63%
that is, slighly less than one third, of the overall scientists working in climate science in support of AGW. Because this is the figure for taking a stance on AGW AND are commited to the consensus position acknowledging AGW. How suprising!
Another issue mentioned in the abstract is related to self-rating of climatologists: “In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus.”
Again, and almost miraculously, of those expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed AGW.
In any case a substantial percentage of over one third to about two thirds – the majority – of researchers in climate change remain silent.
So, what did the journalist respond? He noted: “Nevertheless, only 0.7 percent of the texts have a tendency to claim that climate change is not man-made.”
While this may be correct in the context in which 60% of the data are omitted, it distorts the situation into the unrecognizable. Indeed it would be more appropriate to write:
“Of the minority – that is about one third of the total population – of publications that mention man-made global warming, only 0.7 percent contradict the thesis that climate change is not man-made. The vast majority of these studies, on the other hand, support the thesis of human-induced global warming. Thus about one third of all scientists openly support the thesis of human-induced global warming”.
However, the data situation does not permit the following assertions under any circumstances:
(1) “Then came the phase of the alleged scientific “discussion”. Scientists hired by business lobbies argued against consensus.”
(2) “99.3 percent of scientists in the field of climate research warn of the consequences of climate change.”
People promoting the latter positions seem to act under the premise: it is OK to trust statistics which you have forged yourself.